Pratibha Ray, the renounced Jnanpith winning Odisha author
is considered as the motive power of Odishan literature.
She is a novelist, philanthropist and an inspiration to many.
Prathibha Ray was born at Alabol, a remote village in Jagatsinghpur district formerly part of the Cuttack district of Odisha state on 21 January 1944. She was talented in literature from an early age and started writing poetry at the age of nine. She switched to short stories in her college days. Later writing novels became her passion. But still, she continues to write lyrics and poetry in Odia.
She wrote her first novel ‘Barsha-Basanta-Baishakha” (The Rain, Spring and Summer) in 1944 and it became an instant bestseller. The hallmark of her fiction is the usage of a colloquial style with an eye for details. Although Pratibha Ray’s focus is on the psycho-social analysis of people, she struggles with the idea of the disparity in class, race and gender. She constantly fights for equality through her work of fiction and her words.
She is drawn to history and legends and often writes on them. She had written the novel ‘Yanjnaseni’ based on the life of Draupadi from Mahabharata. Her novel ‘Mahanoh’ tries to elevate the misunderstood characters from Vedas, especially ‘Ahalya’. These two novels are just two from a long list of successful novels written by Ray.
Researching on the lifestyle and behavior of Bondo highlanders she traveled to the remote hills of Koraput district of Odisha. An intimate study of the Bondo life is found in her collection of short stories – “Bhagabana Desh” (Land of God), as well as in her novel “Adi Bhoomi ” (Primal Land).
Pratibha Ray worked relentlessly in the cyclone-affected areas in the aftermath of the Super Cyclone of Odisha, in 1999. Her classic novel “Magnamati” is based on the Super Cyclone in which she tries to unravel the mystery of life and death. Pratibha Ray’s literature is rooted in concrete socio-historical reality and Odisha’s rich cultural heritage. Even when her works are deep-rooted in her culture, she manages to induce a universal appeal to them. Whether it be ‘Shyapa’, ‘Birralamba’, or the translated stories like ‘The Gentleman’, ‘The Other Goad’, ‘Hunger’, and ‘The Mango Tree’ Pratibha Ray excels in her field of work with her unique themes and her narrative patterns.
She does not shy away from calling out the bigotry of humans through her works. Pratibha’s novels contain a variety of subject matter and interests incorporated with techniques to suit the particular theme. For her contribution to literature, Pratibha Ray received the Jnanpith award in the year 2011.
-Written by Poorna Krishnan